Digital Narrative Games

The last time I played online games was probably 12 years ago. I used to play those girls’ games which were so entertaining and fun. Hence here I’m today playing more online games, but that are more life-challenging games. 

One of those games is SpentSpent is an online game about poverty and the difficulties it imposes on everyone. Throughout the game, I had to make a set of decisions that affected my income. Each option is linked to a new difficulty and problem related to my health, education level, and fulfilling basic requirements for my family members, such as my child and mother. Often, there is no “good” answer to the problem at hand, which adds to my frustration. I played the game twice, and in both times, I surprisingly managed to make it through with money left over. I made it through the month with $143 the first time and $113 the second time. With a minimal budget, I had to consider numerous particular costs and expenses that I don’t typically consider. It has placed me in a position where I must make life-altering decisions. I attempted to think logically. Throughout this game, I tried to be true to myself and what I am used to in my life. However, I found out that if I continue to do what I’m used to in my life, I will run out of money before the end of the month. And that is when I started to think logically. I understood how you might have enough money to eat one day and the next day you don’t. I understood how difficult it becomes when it comes to your family. I couldn’t resist but pay for my mother’s medication, go to my child’s performance rather than gaining extra money from an additional job, and buy the supplies my child needed. I found myself neglecting anything related to me, whether going to the dentist or staying home because I was sick. Sacrificing is all that I needed to do to survive till the end of the month. But on the other hand, I had to accept things I would not take in my life. For example, I would not tolerate having someone stay at my house and do things that bother me just because of the amount of money he gives me. However, I did so in the game because I had no other choice; I felt that I had to accept these circumstances because I have many responsibilities and many people depend on me. Yet, I still stuck to my manners, not taking the $10 that a person dropped in front of me, for example. Hence, I can say that the game had a profound effect on me. This let me understand that other individuals are going through the same thing I was, and it forced me to imagine myself in their position, which made me incredibly anxious. The only difference is that mine was only a game, but theirs was real life. It made me understand that individuals with either a low or high income face a lot of difficulties. “It is just stuff until you don’t have it.” This quote was there just before starting the game. This really sums up the purpose of this game. It gave me a greater appreciation of the daily challenges of poor or homeless individuals; it made me realize how lucky and grateful I should be because of the life I’m living. Aside from, the visuals and speed of the game were excellent; it kept me engaged and interested.

The Syrian Journey was something else. The BBC Syrian Refugees game is the second game I played. This game made me realize how difficult it can be to make the right choice and even doubt what the correct decision is in a specific scenario; I didn’t have the luxury of making such choices. I was obliged to flee my own country to survive. I got to feel or witness a tiny part of the refugees’ journey, the obstacles they face, and the sacrifices they must make. While playing the game, I put myself in their shoes, thinking about what every decision would bring and the consequences my family and I would face. I was so worried because those decisions would not only put my life at risk but my family’s too. I felt so under pressure because I was responsible for letting us all survive. I played it twice. I chose to escape through Turkey the first time because the living conditions were better than in Egypt. However, Turkey was expensive, which made me refuse to pay the deposit for the smuggler. I guess I will never know if this was the right decision or not because if I had paid him, I might have reached Greece. However, I did not face many troubles this first time as the Turkish coastguards appeared and dragged our boat to Turkey. And then my family and I were put in a refugee camp. The second time, I chose to go to Italy through Alexandria, Egypt, by sea. This time I actually thought of taking the risk of making unsafe decisions. My family is my everything, so I actually decided to go out and get the supplies that they would need along our long journey, and I insisted on not getting separated from them. I felt as if I was currently living this situation, and this is what I would do in real life. Seeing that I managed to save my family’s life and mine and made it to Europe made me feel relieved and so grateful that I did not lose any one of them. I was able to reach Europe safely by the sea. But this was at the end, just a game. Yet, it made me live a tiny part of what refugees actually face to simply save their life, starting from the smugglers who are taking advantage of the situation to the guards that might end their lives. This game made me feel incredibly blessed. Putting myself in the shoes of a Syrian refugee was terrifying, and I found myself hesitating for a minute or two to consider which option to take. I’m not interested in politics, but this game made me wonder why Syrians had to go through all these stressful and deadly situations; why can’t all nations welcome them through legal means? I tried this game twice, and both times the procedure was quite stressful. Besides, I felt that including graphics would have had a more significant impact on the player. It would have made the player feel like they were living the moment.

Depression Quest was so different than the other two games I played. It focuses on a different issue which is depression. At first, when I started playing the first couple of minutes, I felt like I was not interested or did not want to play. But then the scenarios grabbed my attention and even made me read every single one till the end. It was extensive, and I could relate to a lot of what the man was going through. The specifics of his sentiments, his uncertainty, worry, lack of energy, and sorrow effectively portrayed depression and not knowing how to express or put into words what you are going through since you don’t get what is going on. But I also realized that everyone does not think the same way and has their own things going on in their heads, so we should always be compassionate to others. This game’s situations were highly comprehensive and realistic; it was very instructive and shed light on what depressed individuals go through and how to deal with them. I liked how the game offers support to individuals who struggle with depression, and also how they ended the game with this statement “Instead of a tidy ending, we want to just provide a series of outlooks to take moving forward. After all, that’s all we can really do with depression – just keep moving forward”. However, a suggestion for improving the game would be to have fewer texts with more visuals, or have a different format, for example, and have an option to select the age to be relevant and suitable to all players. 

I tried another game called Bury me, my love. This game tells Nour’s story as she flees Syria and tries to reach Europe. To be honest, this game was far too long and slightly dull. I appreciate the creator’s point; nevertheless, I feel it might have been delivered more effectively. Reduced time and more images, for example, would help the gamer feel more emotionally involved. It conveys a more critical message. Because of the game’s name, I was honestly too eager to check it out. The game’s name drew my interest, and I was curious to see if the game would be as appealing as its name. However, I felt a slight letdown. I began to lose interest after the first five minutes since there was no action. It only has to do with WhatsApp messaging. I waited till September 30th. However, I did not feel emotionally linked to the action that happened on September 30th. Even though I usually should have, I presumed to feel the same emotions that I had when playing Syrian Journey, if not more. However, I liked the way of texting; it made it very lifelike, as if I were a part of it and messaging Nour. In fact, every time she didn’t reply or replied late, I started feeling concerned and scared that something had happened to her in the bombing. Furthermore, it helped me visualize what Nour was saying, the ruins, the deaths, the small girl, and the hospital, as if I were there with her, which aids in conveying the message and understanding the game’s goal. When she mentioned the little girl, I actually felt a little hurt. Because it made me see or recognize that little innocent kids had to witness such horrific scenes at such a young age when they should have been out there playing, I sincerely think that this game could have been amazing if it had been shorter or included authentic images. On the other hand, the graphics and sound effects were outstanding.

The fifth game I played is a unique one, addressing mothers in particular Sleep-deprived mom. However, I’m not a mother, but I have a younger sister who is just five years old, which means a vast 15-year age difference. I sometimes feel that she is my daughter, not my sister, and I find myself taking my mom’s role. I even sometimes know how to act or communicate with her more than my mom does. So, this game was interesting because it forced me to put myself in situations that I would typically experience with her. All the given conditions are absolute and relatable, especially the bedtime struggle and even the choices are very similar to the actions I take with her. Taking bedtime as an example, when it’s bedtime, my sister always starts talking about everything and anything; she suddenly becomes very hungry and starts crying because she did not drink that juice she wanted to drink earlier in the morning and many more. And I always see how mom gets tired from convincing her that she has to sleep and has the next day to do whatever she wants. I personally do not have the patience to deal with this situation every day and not have enough sleep because I will not have enough energy the following day. Hence, of course, I do not go through this every day, while my mom does. She barely has some time for her or even just some rest and sleep. So, this game made me appreciate all our moms’ efforts because they feel exhausted and deny themselves many things for the sake of their children. Besides, I really liked the game, it is simple yet makes you interested. And I also liked that there was a score for each choice. 

Lastly, the last game I played is Know Yourselfa game created by studentsThis game was fun and did not take a lot of time. Fundamentally, this game delivered a lesson that we all need to know about: knowing oneself.  It was great, and it showed me how humans could be pretty judgmental most of the time. I loved how it highlighted the necessity of having positive thoughts and intentions toward others unless anything other is proven. Also, the game was not difficult at all, and the questions were based on real-life scenarios that we all experience. What I enjoyed best about this game is that it taught me several things, one of which was that quick judgment doesn’t get you anywhere. It made me want to change and think before acting rather than jumping to conclusions. I picked this game to help me discover myself since I often have trouble answering questions about myself. As a result, I decided to give it a shot. And I turned out to be a judgmental individual. I’m not surprised since I believe that everyone, whether consciously or unconsciously, makes judgments. Being unintentionally prejudiced is not as terrible as being actively biased, yet it is still unacceptable. I feel that everyone should attempt to alter that aspect of themselves. However, I cannot entirely blame them since I believe that we have some prejudices because of what we have been through. For example, it is scary in the Egyptian streets and not so safe. As a result, if a random person approaches me on the road late at night, I will be suspicious regardless of how he seems, even if his appearance adds to the impression. This game would have been even better if it had some visuals or created through another forum. 

Overall, I learned something new from each of these games; they were highly educational, eye-opening, and, most importantly, reasonably practical at having me feel and sympathize with the individuals in them. Because all six of those games are about your feelings and how you react to the scenarios they place you in, whether it’s stress, worry, anxiety, anger, or fear. And those are the identical emotions that the people in those games are experiencing, but they are provided in various interactive methods, such as questionnaires and chatting. However, I found some of those games to be incredibly long and with so many paragraphs, such as the Depression quest and Burry me, my Love to be a bit slow since it takes much too long before anything happens. Bury me, My Love was my least favorite, which surprised me. I thought it was amazing because of its catchy name. Spent, The Syrian Journey, Sleep-deprived Moms, and Know Yourself were my favorite games. They were brief, entertaining, and engaging, not time demanding, and not wordy. Their messages were evident. Spent and The Syrian Refugee had excellent visuals and pacing, and they made me feel as though I were present at these events. I was wholly engaged in them. In contrast, the rest need more graphics and less text, they need to find other ways to communicate the information, such as alternating between different styles and approaches in one game so the viewer or player would remain engaged and finish the game. 

One thought on “Digital Narrative Games

  1. I like that you gave us screenshots from Spent and gave such an in-depth reflection, Salma, thank you. I also love that you showed us what even an older-sister-almost-mom-to-younger-sibling might learn from the Sleep-Deprived mom game.


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